City considers minority contract effort

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Two consultant groups have found that there are disparities between the amount of white-owned businesses hired by the city compared to minority-owned businesses.

But one consultant is saying the city should start a race-and-gender-based hiring program, and the other is warning them not to.

It's a complicated and emotional issue for many.

Robert Griffin has had a very respectable career. He is African American.  But ask him if his race has hindered him, and he says "that's a very good question. Oddly enough, there have been certain instances but you never really know."

He says that's why he'd like to see the city pick up the race-and-gender-based hiring program it abandoned almost a decade ago.

"I think the city needs to amp it up because sometimes people feel comfortable with certain people. And it's kind of bad to say it sometimes," Griffin says, "but I think special consideration should be given to minorities."

We found Griffin at a career fair today designated for diversity hiring. About a dozen companies showed up.

Constance Greenhosten wished there were more in attendance.  She also wants the city to renew its minority effort.

"I hope they do," she says. "There are a lot of qualified African Americans and a lot of qualified females with experience like myself, but it has been difficult in Charlotte to sort of break through that wall."

But city council member Warren Cooksey says the first consultant group hired by commissioners found that the city is now doing what it should be.

"They argued that the race neutral program the city operates under currently does as good if not a better job at getting contractual opportunities for minority owned businesses as a separate set aside program would," Cooksey says.

And that first consultant also confirmed that the current plan is safer.

"The reason why the council back in '03 adopted this race neutral small business opportunity program was because a lawsuit was coming along," Cooksey says.

Some city council members disagreed with that first firm, though.

And so they hired a second (Cooksey calls it "consultant shopping").

But that second firm did say the opposite...that the city should bring back its minority-program.

It's unclear now which way the city will go.

They will hear more from the second firm in May.